Editors' Notes

Maria Damon and Michelle Greenblatt
Jim Leftwich and Michelle Greenblatt
Sheila E. Murphy and Michelle Greenblatt

A Visual Conversation on Michelle Greenblatt's ASHES AND SEEDS with Stephen Harrison, Monika Mori | MOO, Jonathan Penton and Michelle Greenblatt

Letters for Michelle: with work by Jukka-Pekka Kervinen, Jeffrey Side, Larry Goodell, mark hartenbach, Charles J. Butler, Alexandria Bryan and Brian Kovich

Visual Poetry by Reed Altemus
Poetry by Glen Armstrong
Poetry by Lana Bella
A Eulogic Poem by John M. Bennett
Elegic Poetry by John M. Bennett
Poetry by Wendy Taylor Carlisle
A Eulogy by Vincent A. Cellucci
Poetry by Vincent A. Cellucci
Poetry by Joel Chace
A Spoken Word Poem and Visual Art by K.R. Copeland
A Eulogy by Alan Fyfe
Poetry by Win Harms
Poetry by Carolyn Hembree
Poetry by Cindy Hochman
A Eulogy by Steffen Horstmann
A Eulogic Poem by Dylan Krieger
An Elegic Poem by Dylan Krieger
Visual Art by Donna Kuhn
Poetry by Louise Landes Levi
Poetry by Jim Lineberger
Poetry by Dennis Mahagin
Poetry by Peter Marra
A Eulogy by Frankie Metro
A Song by Alexis Moon and Jonathan Penton
Poetry by Jay Passer
A Eulogy by Jonathan Penton
Visual Poetry by Anne Elezabeth Pluto and Bryson Dean-Gauthier
Visual Art by Marthe Reed
A Eulogy by Gabriel Ricard
Poetry by Alison Ross
A Short Movie by Bernd Sauermann
Poetry by Christopher Shipman
A Spoken Word Poem by Larissa Shmailo
A Eulogic Poem by Jay Sizemore
Elegic Poetry by Jay Sizemore
Poetry by Felino A. Soriano
Visual Art by Jamie Stoneman
Poetry by Ray Succre
Poetry by Yuriy Tarnawsky
A Song by Marc Vincenz

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It is both a deep honor and very painful to write these words. Randy Adams, the subject of this interview, passed away on April 25, 2014. Randy has been an inspiration for many many years. He was one of the first people who showed interest in my work when I was a lost kid right out of the California Institute for the Arts and grad school. runran.net immediately hit me as both a humble man's work and something brilliant and far ahead of its time when he began and we first crossed each other's radar. trAce was the next hugely important thing this gentle man was working on that I came across and deeply admired. It was a great joy to interview him a few months ago and he again blew me away with the deep amount of work he put into something with his trademark kindness and humility. It is one of the best interviews I have ever had the pleasure of conducting as he took each question to heart even as he was ill. He also crafted an amazing patchwork bio that is really a narrative of the different layers of his self and his interests and what was important and meaningful to him. Again he rose far above what was needed and it was something creative and so of a deep ore of Randy. We never met in person but that feels so inconsequential in the face of his spirit, influence and great kindness.

I hope you enjoy this interview with this great creative force and person many of us are lucky to know (present tense not past...he is with us still and this a great bloom and blessing) in our lives.

Jeremy Hight

An Interview with Randy Adams
by Jeremy Hight

Jeremy Hight: What are some of the possibilities that digital writing (and publication/dissemination) brings that the older print paradigm does not possess?

Randy Adams: To my mind, the most intriguing aspects of digital writing are: access to tools that have an overall democratizing effect on art because they allow non-affiliated artists/writers to create complex multimedia; and the viral nature of the internet, which allows for delivery across an international network of viewers and peers—sharing and collaborating across borders. I have posted writings and imagery from a dozen countries on my winter travels. There is the opportunity to add to or delete one's work, to edit it whenever the mood strikes, and to share it through social networks. Everything from visual poetry to extended narrative games is available these days. I don't own a smart phone but I see there are lots of interesting apps. More and more art is being created for mobile phones and tablets, but I have trouble viewing work on such small screens—my problem, old eyes.

Early on, the net/web was viewed as an alternative medium for publishing one's work. Digital writing was still primarily text-based. But, in many cases, the net/web as a publishing platform has proved too fluid. As Ron Silliman, early on, pointed out in regard to the dissemination of creative work on the web: "If distribution & the web is the digital world's answer to the problem of demographics, then the larger question will focus around the problem of constantly evolving platforms." Digital platforms, like Macromedia Flash, can deliver complex multimedia, but they are not backward compatible, which is particularly annoying when working collaboratively with different versions of the same software. Not to mention that the platform itself will one day vanish from our palette. It is already not viewable, without hacking, on many Apple and Android products.

Most artwork and writing on the net/web can still be shown in print or on the walls of a gallery. This has not changed. Codework is a different matter, but fewer and fewer artist-programmers are producing work that explores code as art. Some artists are using applications like Second Life and Google maps and games as material to create narratives. As an example, I point here to the work of Jon Rafman. I particularly like Facebook for the groups that have been established for asemic writing, mailart, visual poetry (vispo), and much more. Flickr is still very good as catalogue of 'world' imagery.

The short history of digital art and writing on the net/web can be tracked alongside the development of technology that made the interface increasingly more dynamic. Ten years ago it took sometimes more than a minute for web browsers to load a 100KB animation. Broadband has dramatically changed what is possible for writers and artists who want to use the net/web as a platform to deliver creative work. But online publication also runs the risk of server crashes, making work inaccessible; and transferring a blog from server to server is tricky business, where much can be lost; the web is a wasteland of dead links (out of print).

The past decade has witnessed a vast increase in the numbers of people who self-identify as artists or writers or journalists. The ability to self-publish anytime, leap-frogging over the editorial or review process, comes with a price. I am guilty of 'publishing' work without review, to its detriment. True, we can edit our websites and blogs and digital work whenever we want. A piece need never be really finished. But where does this end? This brings to mind an observation by Andrew Keen, writing in the Weekly Standard, who commented on "the great seduction of citizen media ... its essential narcissism, with its obsessive focus on the realization of the self." Keen's observation about the narcissism of citizen media can be extended to include a multitude of writers and artists who publish reams of work of the web. There are those who consider themselves visual poets because they have a middling affair with image-editing software and post image after image on the same theme—apply a filter and voila, they have a variation on that theme. Apply another filter—etc, etc.

Ralph Rumney said his paintings were "the gaze penetrating the image"—he had no clear idea where the painting was going. This brings up the problem of when to stop, but this was not a problem for Rumney because the work knew, spoke, when it was finished. Sadly, there are few Ralphs kicking about, and most dabblers don't know when to stop—their work simply doesn't speak. Here I could take Ollivier Dyens' view of replicators to a humorous plane—"cyberspace ... is an environment where replicators can reproduce and disseminate independent of organic beings"—which suggests that the digital dabblers simply can't stop hitting the save button. Publish or perish is no longer the rarefied territory of academics. The mouse is in control. But there is also a certain delight in work, as Ted Warnell once pointed out to me, "fresh off the burner with no gestation period, no long months in the studio, no long hours editing. In this, the web is sometimes like experiencing life 'off the cuff'."

In an interview with Simon Mills in the sadly defunct framed journal, Mike Atavar said: "I think very early on, working with the www, I had to give up my sense of control ... things crash, monitors are different and so change colours, browsers don't display correctly. it's a very challenging environment in which to make art practice." Only those who come to terms with this challenge will have a long career in 'digital writing' or 'new media art'. Many old-school critics use this aspect of the form as an argument against it being a relevant as art—or some such malarkey. There are some complex narratives that have kept up with advances in technology, like Inanimate Alice.

New media is rooted in consumer culture. One could draw a comparison between MOO—"a text-based online virtual reality system to which multiple users (players) are connected at the same time"—and Second Life (replace text-based with multimedia-based). Second Life is like MOO on drugs. It is hugely more popular, and populated, than MOOs ever became. This is because more senses are involved in Second Life. The 'reality' is less virtual. But MOOs could operate on dial-up connections, whereas Second Life requires broadband. New media is inexorably tied to a consumer culture that promotes new technologies. It also comes with a nasty environmental price tag. BBC columnist Bill Thompson highlighted some rough calculations done by technology writer Nicholas Carr, who "reckons that each avatar uses 1,752 kilowatt hours of electricity—or about the same amount as an average person living in Brazil." So the 'challenge' inherent in new media and our fascination with 'newness' becomes rather more complex, and far beyond the scope of my humble contribution to this email interview.

JH: What was your experience like at trAce? This interviewer had the honour of presenting at trAce in 2003; what could you tell the readers about trAce and its influence on digital writing/e lit and a sense of community?

RA: There are better people to ask about trAce and its influence on digital media writing. The community was the brainchild of netizen, academic, and writer Sue Thomas. It was hosted by the Nottingham Trent University. She is the best resource for this. My response here will try to encapsulate my experience as a media artist and my involvement with trAce—in various guises.

Sceptical and a bit frightened at first, I joined the trAce community and began to use digital tools to create small works, poetic in nature, for self-publication on the web. Browser art, for lack of a better name. Animated gifs, for example. Through members of trAce I learned to work with HTML and snippets of JavaScript. I also started to use image-editing software and a scanner. After some time of being active in the trAce community, I was fortunate to be chosen to have a studio space. It was a real opportunity, all that server space to create within—with the only stipulation that I keep an online journal of the experience. Server space was premium in those days.

Without a doubt my interest in digital aesthetics was sparked by the ability to combine two areas of creative practice that most interested me, writing and visual art (as well as a lifelong interest in music). I was surprised by the generosity of other writers and artists at trAce who worked with digital tools to deliver online content—people who shared ideas and code and imagery with very little concern for ownership or copyright. Collaborations were spontaneous and invigorating. Some lasted for years.

My new-found skills with HTML led to mentoring writers, and hosting a course in the online school. I learned much at trAce while working as Associate Editor, writing and commissioning articles on online digital media. I met, chatted with, and interviewed many writers and artists who worked with or taught new media. trAce held bi-annual conferences where young academics and artists and writers gathered to discuss the 'new form'. We shared creative work and ideas in a very relaxed atmosphere. trAce held some of the very first conferences in the field of digital media writing.

Of all the projects that I worked on while employed by trAce, I am very proud of the trAce archive. It remains as a resource for scholars who want to research the beginnings of net/web art and digital writing. I read every chat-log and viewed every page on the trAce server. One of the keyword searches is by name—anyone who contributed anything to trAce can search using their name. This was very important to me. NTU should be congratulated for keeping the archive online. My last project for trAce was the 44 page booklet, trAces: A Commemoration of Ten Years of Artist Innovation at trAce. I worked with a wonderfully creative designer, Paul Gataaura, who captured the wild variety and sometimes sheer 'madness' (affectionately) of the work created during trAce's lifespan.

The entire experience, from a novice using digital tools, to my time as editor at trAce, was organic. There were no job applications to fill in. I gathered a fine bunch of friends.

JH: What is R3/\/\1X\/\/0RX and what does it entail?

RA: Here is what it says on our 'about' page, a statement we have developed and collaborated on over the course of R3/\/\1X\/\/0RX's existence:

R3/\/\1X\/\/0RX (remixworx) is a space for the remixing of digital media, including visual poetry (vispo), electronic poetry (flashpo), playable media, animation, music, spoken word, texts and more. It began as a blog in November 2006 and has grown to number over 500 individual works of media. The source material is made available and all media is freely given to be remixed. Each new work is remixed, literally or conceptually, from other works on the blog. Then, the new work is linked to the blog post(s) that contain the component parts, thus the blog 'talks to itself'—"I link therefore I am" (Mark Amerika).
R3/\/\1X\/\/0RX is an accumulation of spontaneous ideas that spawn at random intervals, a flexible community, an adaptable entity that has been shown in a variety of ways—performed live at festivals and conferences, or remixed live as part of DJ/VJ events. The present page of 'selected works' has been created to 'open the project up', so to speak, with a visual interface, separate from the blog. It is presented as an online journal of digital art and writing that spans 2006 to the present.

JH: How has the sense of remix, as well as digital literature and art, changed since R3/\/\1X\/\/0RX began?

RA: I touched on digital literature and art in my answer to your first question. I have really nothing to add to that. Overall, this is a very big question and I am simply not going there. Instead, I will talk about R3/\/\1X\/\/0RX, specifically.

Most members of R3/\/\1X\/\/0RX were brought together, initially, by the trAce Online Writing Community. R3/\/\1X\/\/0RX continues in a spirit of learning and sharing—in the original spirit of the World Wide Web. I started R3/\/\1X\/\/0RX out of sense of isolation brought on by the demise of trAce, and a desire to learn from others and create work collaboratively.

One of the original members, Ted Warnell, explores text, the lowest common denominator for people and computers. With rare exceptions, all of his work is pure text. As Ted says: "unlike the work of many 'code workers', my work does not rely on plug-ins, players, proprietary file formats, third-party programs and scripts, or specially-equipped servers—as a consequence, my work does not look like, feel like, or operate like the rest of the pack."

At the outset, I was working with digital collage, concrete poetry, and spoken word. R3/\/\1X\/\/0RX was joined by Chris Joseph (babel) whose work in Flash has won several awards; and soon after that Christine Wilks joined the mix. She also worked in Flash and has won awards.

As time went on we were joined by Peter Ciccariello, Erik H Rzepka, and Matina L. Stamatakis. This group stayed together until Ted left R3/\/\1X\/\/0RX (I think because we had become so Flash oriented). Other people have dropped in and posted one or two works, but nothing sustained. The core members (myself, Chris and Christine) continued to remix our works. We have recently been joined by Andy Campbell. Peter has dropped in again recently with new work.

It is interesting to watch Christine and Andy grapple with the new HTML5. Andy has even developed some 3D work for mobiles, based on R3/\/\1X\/\/0RX . Chris continues to post work using Flash, and I am still exploring digital collage and asemic writing. I can remix simple Flash pieces, but have no desire to learn new platforms or markup code.

The internet is much changed from when we started R3/\/\1X\/\/0RX—there are more beheadings, though they seem to have tailed off recently. In his 1996 book Dreams Of Millennium: Report From a Culture On the Brink, Mark Kingwell writes: "More pathetic still was another man, diagnosed with lung cancer, who went on-line" to slowly say goodbye to his friends and curse his enemies one more time. "What's next? E-mail suicide notes". Well, yes Mark, and so much more extreme. Terrorist bombings posted online by the terrorists five minutes after the fact. And, yes, beheadings. Not to mention Wikileaks and politicians everywhere trying to curtail social media. The internet has become a battlefield. Remix that.

JH: What are some of the core influences for R3/\/\1X\/\/0RX?

RA: The core influences are different for each member, past and present. In regards artistic practice, R3/\/\1X\/\/0RX is unabashedly new media—'born digital'—but the project has roots in photography, literature, audio technology, film, animation, poetry, computer programming, dada and outsider art. I added outsider art because I am an autodidact, operating entirely outside academia. Most of the other members have some background in academia.

JH: You have a fascinating family history and sense of information and sharing. How has this shaped your creative work?

RA: The following paragraphs are inserted here so readers know what "fascinating family history" you speak of:

I was born in Edmonton, a Canadian city of moderate size, located at 53° 34' N / 113° 31' W: parkland mostly, laying between plains and tundra. My maternal great-great grandfather was an Orkneyman, William Lennie, a blacksmith at Fort Edmonton. In 1869 he married Annabella Fraser, a Métis daughter of Colin Fraser, bagpiper for HBC governor George Simpson. William and Annabella had a son named Colin Lennie who married Clara Grant, daughter of a notorious fur trader named Johnny Grant and his Métis wife Lily. My grandmother Pearl was born, daughter of Colin and Clara, a mere 15 years after the 'rebellion' at Batoche. She married a man much older than her, an English railroad foreman named Fred Smith. It wasn't long before Pearl Smith refused to talk about her Métis heritage. By the time I was born, it was a deep family secret—though when Pearl put her hair down she looked decidedly native. Serendipitously, my partner JoAnn is 1/2 Cree. We live together like the fur traders and mixed-blood women of so long ago—"a la facon du pays" (according to the custom of the country).
My father's ancestors came from a small village named Sangar, in what is now northern Iraq. They were Nestorian Christians, Assyrians, who emigrated to the prairie settlement of North Battleford, Saskatchewan, in the early 1900's. I am prototypically Canadian and curiously proud of my mixed blood.
I can't remember any single event that got me travelling, but by the time I was nineteen I was on the road. During the decade when many of my friends were in university, learning one trade or another, or establishing businesses, I was rambling from landscape to landscape, never settling anywhere for long. I wandered up and down the spine of North America, working in the orchards of British Columbia, on farms and ranches in Alberta, and a gemstone mine in the Mojave Desert. I learned an assortment of skills. How to catch chickens in a dark barn, gathering four to a hand, their hard scaly legs like pencils stiff between your fingers, the squawking, the feathers and dust, and the stench of ammonia and fear. How to tighten barbed wire with only a claw hammer, hooking a barb into the claw and twisting the wire tight around the neck of the hammerhead. How to drill a hole and pack just the right amount of plastic explosive to blow a vein of gemstone from off the wall of an open pit. How to prune a fruit tree by imagining the spokes of a wheel. How to turn a herd of spooked cattle through a narrow opening in a fence. How to swath a field. How to urge the last breath of life from cranky old machinery. For several years, I worked variously as cabbie and a bartender. Then, for twenty years, I worked part-time in public libraries.

How can all this not shape a person, and affect their creative direction and energies? I worked in photography, and made mixed-media constructions fashioned from objects found while 'romancing the prairies' with my cameras. I wrote several essays, prose poems and a book about the experience—historical travelogues. I still use found material. I now write and make digital artworks for what Paz called the "immense minority", or maybe Stendhal's "happy few". I like to think that my work is accessible to my neighbours—people with little or no exposure to the creative arts. Although I have a great interest in theory and critical thinking, I am still that person who wandered in from the landscape. I make no excuses for that. In fact, I admit to being an end-user who hammers on a computer. An autodidact.

JH: What are you working on right now?

RA: I am working on a book of poetry for fall 2014 publication, editing 40 years of journals and notes and poems. I have a collage wall in the basement that has been an ongoing project for a couple of years, with an accompanying collage 'book', like a passport. I always have something in progress for R3/\/\1X\/\/0RX, either a collaboration or an individual work. I have a fascination with plastic poetry and have started to collect found objects to create images based on the photographic poems of Kitasono Katue. A complete circle from print and physical art to digital media and back to print and physical art. But R3/\/\1X\/\/0RX will always be part of my palette.

Check out a selection of drawings by Randy Adams in this issue of Unlikely Stories: Episode IV, and be sure to read about his collaborator, Christine Wilks!

Jeremy Hight is the Art Director at Unlikely Stories: Episode IV. You can learn more about him at his bio page.

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